It’s that time of year again — the holidays. And with all of the dinners and parties all calling your name, the ability to overeat is easy. What if changing the color of your plate prevented you from eating too much? Well, according to new study, red dishes encourage people to refrain from consuming more food than they should. The study authors tested how much food or hand cream people used when the item was on a red, blue, or white dish. The results showed that the participants ate less popcorn and chocolate when they were served on red plates compared to blue or white plates.
"We wanted to find out if the effect was limited to eating or generalized to other types of consumption. The cream was a convenient way to evaluate another sensory system — touch, rather than taste," said study author Nicola Bruno, cognitive psychology researcher at the University of Parma, Italy.
The study was conducted with 240 participants, 90 taste-tested popcorn, and 75 each sampled the chocolate chips and hand cream. The volunteers were not aware they were being tested on the dish colors; they rated how salty the popcorn was, the nuttiness of the chocolates, and the stickiness of the hand cream. The researchers also asked the participants how much they liked the product to see if that was a factor causing them to eat more popcorn or chocolate, or use more hand cream.
Of course, those who liked popcorn ate more than those who did not like it regardless of the plate color. Overall, the researchers still found that people ate less when consumed off of the red plates. The hand cream showed similar results; people used on average, half as much.
Plate-to-product contrast had little to do with the results, but researchers are still unsure if it’s the actual color of the plate or some other contributing factor. "We don't know what will happen if people are conscious of their plate's color. Maybe it won't work anymore," said Oliver Genschow, who studies consumer psychology at the University of Mannheim, CNN reports.
More research is needed to further quantify this theory, but researchers believe that this information will lead to additional studies.
“Although the origin of the intriguing effect of the color red on consumption remains unclear, our results may prove useful to future potential explanations," the study authors said.